Friday, January 11, 2008

Tonya Lee Williams: Providing a Platform for Emerging Filmmakers of Color

Actress, director and producer Tonya Lee Williams is best known for her role as Dr. Olivia Barber Winters on CBS's #1 soap opera the Young and the Restless - a role that spanned from 1990 to 2005. But Tonya has another role that is just as impressive.

In 2001, Tonya founded the ReelWorld Film Festival, to provide a platform for emerging individuals of color in the entertainment industry to build their dreams and hone their skills in her native Canada. Since its inception, ReelWorld has become a major international film festival, with support from fellow thespians such as Robert Townsend, Eriq LaSalle and Sandra Oh.

The five-day event showcases over 100 features, documentaries, animation, shorts and music videos, industry panels, awards, parties, and galas attended by celebrities and film-lovers. It is the only film festival to capture the essence of Canada’s multicultural and multiethnic tapestry.

Tonya soon realized that diverse emerging talent in the entertainment industry needed more than the five days of the activities the annual ReelWorld Film Festival provided. As an outgrowth of the festival, the ReelWorld Foundation was created in 2002.

The Foundation's aim is to provide assistance to the diverse talent in front of and behind the camera. Training, support and mentorship is provided through year-round initiatives and activities, that enable primarily Aboriginal, Asian, Black, Latino, Middle Eastern, South Asian and multi-racial talent in the Canadian entertainment industry to garner success and respect.

The website states that ‘visible minorities’ are the fastest growing demographic in Canada and there must be a place for them in the entertainment industry. To this end, the foundation partners with Canadian youth programs in under resourced communities to introduce young people to the many facets of the Canadian entertainment industry.

::Join Tonya Lee Williams for High Tea at Noon::

On Saturday, February 16, 2008, the ReelWorld Film Festival will hold its first annual Tonya Lee Williams' ReelWorld Film Festival & Foundation High Tea at Noon, presented by Belvedere International Inc. at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Toronto, from 12-3:30p.m. The tea will raise funds for the programs ReelWorld Film Festival and Foundation provides for emerging filmmakers and its community programs.

Celebrity and designer handbags will be auctioned off by special guests including Tonya Lee Williams and a special guest from the Young and the Restless. Many handbags have been generously donated by celebrities including actors Ashley Jones, Laura Lee Bell, Victoria Rowell, Fashion Television's Jeanne Becker, Access Hollywood's Shaun Robinson, Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart and recording artists Deborah Cox and Fergie. Many high end designers have donated handbags such as Hermes and Hugo Boss.

Tickets - Single price tickets for the event are $125. To purchase tickets please call the ReelWorld offices at 416.598.7933 X 24 or email

For more information about the festival and the foundation, visit the website at

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